Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pennsylvania Dutch-style PotPie – No Crusts, Thank You

My favorite food of my youth is chicken potpie. I can remember a time when everyone I'd talk to knew what I meant by chicken potpie. If you wanted a dinner pie with a crust, then it was chicken pie or meat pie, NOT potpie. We had meat pie several times a year – always after Mom would make a huge pot of beef stew. She'd serve stew the first night and then make two large meat pies with the leftover stew, one to freeze and one to eat the next night. Although there were only three of us, Mom never seemed to know how to cook smaller portions.

Chicken potpie, however, was the ultimate comfort food. Full of doughy goodness, a carbaholic's dream, it was the result of cooking chicken in water, making a stock, removing the chicken and placing strips of rolled dough into the broth to boil away, to thicken the broth and become tender and full of flavor. The chicken was served on the side (although, honestly, I rarely ate any) along with a vegetable and cranberry sauce or apple sauce. Of course, my parents always had to have bread on the table as well. They could have put many carb lovers to shame. Really – they'd have as many as five different kinds of bread open on the counter on any given day because they just loved eating different kinds of breads and rolls at every meal. The birds in Mom's back yard grew fat and lazy over the years, I assure you.

Anyway, Mom would make potpie in her large aluminum stock pot, although it was probably more of a canning pot. It was huge. Twenty-two quarts of ecstasy that would often last a week. If she made it in winter, the pot would be put on the back step until the next day when it was brought in to be re-heated. Remember – there were only three of us. Her recipe for potpie dough called for 7 cups of flour. That's a lot of dough.

Because Mom spent most of her teen years in the depression, she became well aware of what foods were the easiest to make with the least amount of money and ingredients. She was raised on farms (my grandfather was a tenant farmer until his father-in-law died and they inherited his farm), so they always had chickens on hand. Flour was fairly inexpensive. Benny also raised pigs, so they had lard to make dough with. Chicken potpie was a no-brainer. And, if unexpected guests stopped by, there was always more than enough to feed them. You didn't leave the table hungry in the Postell house.

Chicken potpie is also a Pennsylvania Dutch favorite and is very similar to Southern Chicken and Rolled Dumplings (other than the chicken is served separately). Considering one branch of Mom's family came up from the south and Benny's farming efforts putting him in contact with the Amish when he went to market in Philadelphia, it's anybody's guess how this meal actually came to be so popular in the family.

I have since learned that I can use flour tortillas to make a quick and tasty potpie (although, from scratch really is the best). I cut the tortillas into strips and shake them in a bag with flour and then cook them in the chicken stock/broth until done. The flour helps thicken the stock so there is that wonderful thick gravy I grew up with. Sometimes I make the broth from scratch and sometimes I use other methods of making broth (base, bouillon, boxed broth), but it still provides that comfort factor I occasionally crave.

Here are some links to recipes very similar to what I grew up with. I hope you enjoy them.

NeartoNothing's Chicken Potpie

Chicken Potpie  (I missed this when I was checking out her blog! Mom didn't add egg to her dough and left it in long strips rather than making smaller squares.)

More Chicken Potpie (the broth in this one is more like Mom's, but it's your taste, not mine)


  1. Looks good to me. I do like my pastry crust though.

  2. I haven't had chicken pot pie in years! Decades, really. It's chilly and rainy here today--the perfect day for just such a dinner.

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  3. My background is Pennsylvania Dutch, and yes, this does look like the Chicken pot pie that Mom made when I was a kid. She served it with pickled cantaloupe, another one of my favorites!

  4. Pickled cantaloupe is a new one on me, but Mom used to pickle watermelon rind. I've never liked pickles, but it's definitely a way to use the entire watermelon.

  5. I've never heard of this version of chicken pot pie, but it's one I can get behind, for sure! One of my favorite comfort foods in chicken and rice simmered in the crock pot. This sounds like a good alternative.

  6. I've made chicken pot pie and my crust is always less than perfect. It ranges from too flaky where you can't cut it because it falls apart to almost bread like. I like your idea of the using tortillas for the crust but am curious about how different the taste is.

  7. Thanks Tracey. I don't use tortillas as a crust. What I make has NO crust. It is dough cooked in broth and I will use tortillas in lieu of making the dough. I would never attempt to use tortillas as an actual crust for a pie.

  8. Mmmm, this looks good and pretty easy to make. Thanks.

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  9. I love pot pie, but must have my crust. Great post!